Category Archives: Mastodon

Mastodons and pumpkins


Pumpkins are an interesting fruit. Curcurbita pepo is one of several domesticated species of the genus Curcurbita, vines that are native to the Americas. Curcurbita is a ecologically diverse genus, with some species needing a continuous water supply while others can live in arid conditions, so it is found natively in a variety of habitats. The fruits, which are technically berries, generally have a thick rind with a softer interior where the seeds are located. In most species the rinds are bitter, but the interior is often more palatable and rich in nutrients. As a result it became one of the first domesticated plants in North America more than 8,000 years ago. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Mammut pacificus

Fig 1 WSC18743 cranium

The big news this week for Western Science Center was the naming of a new species of mastodon, Mammut pacificus. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – Zygolophodon tooth

mammutids for fossil friday

Last week, I visited the Division of Fossil Primates at the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina. They have a great collection of fossil proboscideans from Egypt, including early forms like Moeritherium and Paleomastodon, as well as later, larger species such as Gomphotherium angustidens.

Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon skull update


A few weeks ago I wrote about a mastodon skull we had moved into the lab for additional prep work. Kind of a lot has happened since then. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon skull


We haven’t talked much about mastodons on the blog lately, but that doesn’t mean they’ve been forgotten. We’ve been doing a lot of work scanning, measuring, and otherwise documenting the mastodons in our collection, and we’re doing additional preparation work on some of them. The specimen featured in this week’s post was moved into our preparation lab a few days ago for additional work. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon palate

IMG_6506The Valley of the Mastodons exhibit has closed, and most of out mastodon remains have been moved back to the museum’s repository. But that doesn’t mean they’re forgotten, or that work on them has stopped! Continue reading

Fossil Friday – strange mastodon vertebrae

A lot of the work done by paleontologists and biologists, especially those that work on taxonomy and systematics, is trying to identify general characteristics that various groups of animals have in common and that differ in other groups. The characters are the raw material that we use to define and identify species, to unravel the evolutionary relationships between those species and group them into higher taxa, and to identify sexes, ages, and other features. But, of course, the smallest unit we deal with is the individual animal, and sometimes fossils are emphatically, stubbornly individualistic. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – printed mastodon molar

Each September, Western Science Center holds an annual fundraiser called Science Under the Stars to raise funds for museum operations. At the end of the evening we often do a final “Special Ask” to raise dedicated funds for a particular project. This year, for the Special Ask we requested funds for a 3D-scanning, photogrammetry, and printing lab. Our donors, led by the Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians, came through in spectacular fashion. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon vertebra revisited


After a highly successful Science Under the Stars fundraiser, I’ve tried to get back into the lab to catch up on neglected science work. Administrative duties are still conspiring to keep me chained to the phone and computer, but I have made some progress. Continue reading

Fossil Friday – mastodon vertebrae

Even though the Valley of the Mastodons exhibit is now open, it doesn’t mean that our mastodon work has moved to the backburner. On the contrary, we’re now doing more mastodon work than ever before! Continue reading